Hong Kong’s government has ordered the compulsory testing of all of its 7.5 million citizens as the city battles surging coronavirus infections.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said residents would have to undergo three rounds of tests starting in mid-March.
Schools will break early for summer and strict social distancing measures and travel curbs remain in place there.
The highly contagious Omicron variant has overwhelmed hospitals and testing and quarantine facilities this year.
Thousands of new cases are being reported in the former British colony every day. Mainland Chinese officials have been drafted in to help Hong Kong deal with an exponential rise in infections.
“The coming one to three months are crucial in fighting the pandemic,” Ms Lam told reporters. “This quickly worsening epidemic has far exceeded the Hong Kong government’s ability to tackle it, so there is great need for the central government’s support in fighting the virus.”
It’s the first time everyone in the territory has been tested – a policy enacted elsewhere in mainland China.
Authorities in Hong Kong, which had been hailed for its pandemic control over the past two years, are trying to adhere to the mainland’s “zero Covid” strategy.
It involves early testing, detailed contact tracing, and strict quarantine and travel restrictions.